One of the world’s largest health IT conferences kicks off at the end of this month, February 23-27, and this year promises to be every bit as enormous (take a walking tour of last year’s conference floor, presented by @wareFLO). With so many areas to explore, HIMSS can be rather overwhelming for an unprepared attendee.
I spoke with Cari McLean, HIMSS’ Social Media Manager, to learn about the new and returning resources that visitors will want to check out to get the most from their conference visit.
One of the biggest events to attend is HIMSS’ opening reception, a giant meet-and-greet designed to get everyone warmed up for the conference. Last year’s reception included a live music performance, and this year’s reception will be Latin and Caribbean themed.
Fans of social media will want to visit ‘HIMSS Spot,’ which will feature daily meetups with HIMSS staff and members of the #HITsm community. HIMSS Spot visitors will get connected with other conference attendees and also learn more about the organization. HL7Standards.com will also host an #HITsm themed event at this location at 12:30 p.m., EST, Tuesday, Feb. 25, complete with wearable tech prizes.
Anyone can attend, but you must RSVP to win prizes!
‘YourTurn at HIMSS14’ is a new discussion – or open forum – event that starts at 11 a.m., Feb. 25, and continues throughout the day. YourTurn is aimed at providing an interactive discussion experience where attendees direct the conversation. HIMSS14 members can submit discussion ideas here until February 10. McLean said “it won’t be like the normal education you would experience at a conference. There’s absolutely no PowerPoint. The idea is for it to be unstructured, unplanned and generate lively discussion amongst the host, as well as attendees.”
For thrill seekers and party goers: On the night of Feb. 26, attendees will be invited to a street party at Universal Studios for a good time and unlimited access to select rides (Registration is required).
View the Full List of What’s New at HIMSS14.
I asked Jennifer Dennard, health IT reporter/blogger and Social Marketing Director at Billian Inc., how she’s navigated previous HIMSS conferences. Cari McLean was also happy to share her thoughts from the HIMSS-team side of planning:
Q: What do you personally do to prepare for a conference as large as HIMSS? Do you perform any preliminary research or create a list of spots to definitely check out, for example?
Dennard: “Plan, plan, plan. I try to schedule everything in advance by creating a spreadsheet/word doc that lists all of my confirmed appointments and networking events. I also include conflicting events, in case my Plan A meetings fall through and I have to resort to Plan B to make the best use of my time. The less downtime I have, the more successful the show is for me.
I don’t typically map out my route through the exhibit hall. I may highlight a few key vendors to check out, but by and large I rely on prescheduled appointments to take me through the eighth continent that is typically the HIMSS exhibit floor. Half the fun of that space is wandering around and seeing who you bump into, and what’s new from vendors.
Speaking of appointments and planning, I do create calendar invites for all of my appointments so that I have reminders on all of my devices, but I also create a paper version of the same thing. I lost my phone at HIMSS last year for 12 hours. It felt like I had lost a limb! Needless to say, I don’t want a lost device to hamper my ability to do my job.”
McLean: “The conference is going to have a lot going on: There are going to be over 300 education sessions and over 1000 health IT vendors there. So the key thing that people should do is plan, do some advanced planning before the event. Think about building a calendar of events and sessions you want to attend.”
Q: What are some things you have done at previous conferences, only to realize that it maybe wasn’t the greatest idea? On that same token, what are things you’ve done that made your experience better, and you plan to do again?
Dennard: “Winging it is definitely a no no at an event as large as HIMSS. Appointments are an absolute must. At smaller shows, I am less likely to try and fill my schedule with appointments, but I’ve found that exhibitors aren’t as receptive to having a conversation if you’re somewhat of a stranger. It’s best to reach out before the show to let them know you’ll be stopping by.
When it comes to things I’ve done that have made my experience better, I would have to say devoting a few minutes each day BEFORE the conference to filter through the HIMSS conference tweet stream. This is one of the best ways to find out about networking events ahead of time, which the rest of the masses may not be privy to. The last time HIMSS was held in Orlando, I had the good fortune to find out about a vendor networking event at Universal Studios Theme Park where we ended up getting taken through the VIP line for several rides. Pretty fun, despite my queasiness after riding the Hulk.”
McLean: “But you also want to have some flexibility in your calendar, too, because one thing that I think would be the downfall of an attendee is if they are too strict or have their schedule too planned out. You can kind of miss some of the spontaneity. If something emerges as the ‘must see’ thing to see on the exhibit floor, for example, then you want to make sure that you have some time to do that. You’ll also want to wander and talk to people and then maybe have a random dinner with someone you had a conversation with, or a fellow colleague.”
Q: What is your advice to others wanting to network and make connections using social media at HIMSS?
McLean: “One big tip is that attendees should go with an open mind and be ready to learn and have conversations with people they don’t know — don’t be shy, you definitely want to have your confidence in check and be ready to talk to people and promote everything that you’re doing in the industry.
From a social media perspective, I’d say start connecting now. People are already having conversations on Twitter and among some of our other social networks with HIMSS. Also, if you’re not in attendance at the show, use social media to stay in tune with what’s happening at HIMSS14. Some people will be sharing every play by play on what’s happening.”
Dennard: “Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone and socialize a little bit. Use your Twitter activity as an ice breaker. ‘I follow you on Twitter! I enjoy your tweets. How about that #HITsm chat last week? My name is …’ It’s a great conversation starter.”
And if you absolutely cannot make it to HIMSS, this year will feature HIMSS14 Online, a virtual experience that offers access to select conference events, including the keynote speakers, streamed in real time. It’s a great way to get a taste of what happens at HIMSS14.
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